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What Causes Sludge In A Heating Oil Tank?

oil tank installation vermontOne of the things we sometimes find when performing routine service on oil-fired heating systems in eastern Vermont homes is a build-up of sludge in the fuel filter.

This thick, waxy sludge forms when dirt, rust, and oxidized fuel accumulate at the bottom of your tank (the fuel is oxidized by bacteria that grows in the presence of condensation resulting from temperature changes). Once it gets in your filter, it can alter the performance of your heating system.

The filter is not the only component of your system that sludge can impact: a routine heating oil fill-up can dredge sludge from the bottom of your tank and suck it into the fuel supply lines. Once the thickened oil enters the fuel system, it can cause problems in a number of locations, reducing your efficiency and perhaps even leading to system breakdown.

4 Keys To Heating Oil Sludge Prevention

What can you do to prevent a sludge problem in your heating oil tank this winter and beyond? Here are three key actions you should take:

  1. Keep your oil tank at least half-full year-round — An empty heating oil tank encourages condensation to accumulate on the tank’s interior walls, which accelerates the growth of sludge-forming bacteria. Try to keep oil in the tank at all times, especially during seasonal transitions and in the heating offseason.
  2. ALWAYS get annual heating service — Routine annual maintenance will help your technician nip sludge problems in the bud, before you end up needing more substantial repairs!
  3. Consider having your tank drained — If you have an older heating oil tank, consider having it drained by a waste oil contractor (or, if it’s older than 20 years old, consider having it replaced). Removing years of built up sludge this way can save you money on repairs and help your heating system to perform better.
  4. Buy your heating oil from a reputable supplier — “Discount” fuel companies commonly offer fuel that is less refined and contains more contaminants than more reputable providers. Always remember: when it comes to heating oil deliveries, you get what you pay for!

Contact the heating pros at Junction Fuels today to schedule maintenance for your heating oil system or a heating oil delivery– or to learn more about our expert heating oil equipment installation and maintenance services in Greater Woodstock, VT, including Bridgewater, Killington, Bethel, Hanover, and beyond!